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New poll confirms political apathy

College-age people are less trusting of politicians and less engaged in politics than are people over 25, according to a report released Monday by political awareness group Project Vote Smart.

Project Vote Smart, a non-partisan political research group, surveyed respondents divided into a group of 18- to 25-year-olds and a group of people over 25.

Only 22 percent of the younger group said they pay "a lot" of attention to national affairs, versus 37 percent of the older group. Twenty-four percent of the younger group said they did not trust any level of government.

Planned participation in the 2000 election also was lower among the younger set.

Only 45 percent of younger people said they definitely would vote in the 2000 elections, while 64 percent of the older respondents said they would.

The study also shows that the younger group gets news from the Internet more than older people do.

Kristina Saleh, Project Vote Smart assistant director of public information, said the younger group's use of the Internet provides them with more objective information than other sources offer.

"Just because young people aren't coming out in droves to vote doesn't mean that we're not voting smart," Saleh said. "We're voting smarter than the older crowd simply because we're not looking at one source for information."

But student leaders said they deplore what they view as marginal interest in political issues among most students at the University.

In the fall of 1997, Ben Seisler helped found Students v. Apathy, a University organization dedicated to informing students and promoting political activity.

Seisler said the lack of student participation in politics is unfortunate.

"The average student doesn't seem to be overly concerned with what's going on at Capitol Hill," he said.

He added that providing information is a good way to spark interest.

"If you inform people, that will encourage them to be more politically active," Seisler said.

College Republicans Chairman John Blair also said educating people was key to increasing the numbers of younger voters, which he said is at an "unacceptably low level.

"I think the survey results show that there is a need for better high-school history, government and civics classes to educate young people," Blair said.

Politicians also bear some responsibility for low turnout among the college-age group, University Democrats President Rhodes Ritenour said.

"A lot of politicians don't articulate to people why they are important," Ritenour said. "That's what will get people out to the polls."